Okazu by Gary Hongo

Recently, San Luis Buddhist Church has been faced with situations where decisions had to be made in light of directives regarding social distancing, shelter at home and gatherings limited to 10 people. The first dilemma involved whether to continue holding services and activities at the church. Those who have attended our services can vouch that normally, there are 10 to 15 people in attendance. Important services such as Hanamatsuri would draw 40-50 people. The last service held, a Lay Service, had 4 attendees. Initially, with those numbers in mind, the choice was to continue holding services but ensuring the social distancing was observed in the hondo (chapel) especially considering the possible need for people to hear the dharma during this uncertain period. After service activities such as coffee and tea or a light lunch would not be held. However, the reality was that most of our members would elect to stay at home and the risk of just one elderly member contracting the virus would be too great. Thus, the decision was made to suspend services and other activities held at the church through April. It is fortunate that many other churches/temples within the Buddhist Churches of America have
made their services or dharma talks available to anyone via websites and social media.

The second dilemma involved our Blood Drive that was scheduled for March 22nd. Vitalant, the organization that was sending their Bloodmobile to our church, assured us that everyone would be safe and extra precautions would be taken to ensure that safety. Adding to the need for members to donate was the reality that Vitalant was experiencing a 25 percent decrease in blood donors. It was good to see the donors out there for this worthy and essential cause. We even had donors that were not connected to the church.

The third dilemma centers on our long- standing involvement with People’s Kitchen, one that began in 1986. Once per month our church volunteers prepare a hot lunch at the temple and transport it to the Prado Center to serve the homeless. Would we continue this tradition and possibly expose our volunteers, who are mostly elderly people, to the risk of contracting this virus? The decision would be compounded with the difficulty of purchasing the groceries we would need due the panic buying and depleted shelves at stores. Preparing and serving 80 to 100 lunches for these people in need would be challenging. The staff at the Prado Center has agreed to do the serving if we prepared the meals. Also, we are working with Smart & Final to help us procure the necessary supplies we need. At this writing, we are pressing ahead with this unselfish task by modifying our procedures in preparing the food and transporting it to the Center. We will continue to practice social distancing to minimize our volunteers’ risk.

Many of you reading this column are like me: staying in the house gets me antsy. I like to be outdoors doing physical work. While respecting the directive of sheltering at home, I find that I can still do productive things outside of the home (at the church) especially when there’s not a soul in sight. My wife continues to remind me of this dire ctive but if I waited until “Stay at Home” was relaxed, the weeds growing in the cracks of SLOBC’s parking lot and driveways would make it resemble a jigsaw
puzzle. The tall grass (and weeds) that the rain has been feeding would be chest high making weed whacking that much more difficult. The oak leaves and bark from that gigantic eucalyptus tree would litter the driveway. It’s true that nothing will be going on at the church through April but letting the leaves pile up and the bonsai and shrubs in the Japanese garden go unattended spoils the beauty of our temple. When I’m working at the church during this period of social distancing, I make sure to keep my distance from friends such as “Grey” squirrel, “Red (tail)” hawk, “Red (breast)” robin, “Digger” gopher and “Quickie” quail. Actually, whenever these friends see me, they scurry away, unsure if this human may be a carrier of the coronavirus.

While I’m doing my thing on the church grounds, I cannot help to be amazed at the number of people, adults and children, using the Bob Jones Trail next door. While I’m sure that many are trying to practice social distancing, some are oblivious to others around them as they chatter away or walk in a group as a family. Yes, I know that they are getting their exercise and enjoying the outdoors but they need to be more mindful (see Rev. Nakano’s dharma message).

Just a note that the Japanese cherry trees should be blossoming in early April.
6996 Ontario Rd., San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
(805) 595-2625
Res. Minister: Rev. Naomi Seijo Nakano
Meditation and Service Cancelled until further notice.